IOC official: Brazil’s World Cup points to success for Rio 2016

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Brazil’s historic, humiliating 7-1 loss against Germany in the semifinals of the 2014 FIFA World Cup will leave a bad taste in its fans mouths for years – generations, really – to come.

But the successful preparation and execution of the World Cup by its host nation shows that the country is more than capable of delivering a similarly successful experience shows when Rio de Janeiro hosts the 2016 Olympics, IOC Executive Director Gilbert Felli told the Associated Press.

Brazil will become the first South American nation to host an Olympics in 2016. Felli said that concerns about Rio de Janeiro’s Olympic preparations, including reports of construction delays, have been contradicted by the World Cup’s success, which shows Brazil is prepared to host the world again in two years.

“The perception of the Brazilians is much more positive,” Felli told AP. “It’s good for the Games. They have better trust in themselves to deliver the Games.”

Past Olympic host nations have endured similar concerns about preparation and construction timelines, including Sochi in the runup to the 2014 Winter Olympics, but Felli said that while such concerns are natural, Brazil is on the right track.

“Until the games are delivered I’m always concerned. But it’s not the case to say we’re not going to make it. … My view is we will make it and the Brazilians will deliver excellent Games,” Felli said.

Construction begins on Rio’s second biggest cluster

Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

Kendall Gretsch
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Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine
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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”